Thank you for your leadership in the church, as we journey together in this season of hopeful change. As General Conference draws near, many changes are proposed, and the one that excites me most is the possibility of growth for The United Methodist Church and increasing congregational vitality across the denomination, transforming communities through the love of Jesus Christ.
The Council of Bishops has initiated a renewed focus on making disciples of Jesus Christ. The Call to Action, as the initiative is titled, asks that each congregation in The United Methodist Church submit goals for the next quadrennium. The goals for the North Carolina Conference will be presented by Bishop Al Gwinn to the General Conference, representing the hopes and dreams of vital congregations in our area.
Please take a few moments to prayerfully submit numerical goals for your congregation by visiting this website: http://www.umvitalcongregations.org.
Click on the tab that says “Setting Goals.” On the right side of that page, find “Congregations.” After you click on that page, you will be asked to enter the name of the city or town and state where your church is located, and the name of the church. As the page opens, you will see that data are presented from 2006-2010, based on the data you or a former pastor entered into the Tables for those years. You also will see the blanks that follow, the spaces for your goals for the years 2012-2015. (Data for 2011 are not yet available on the site.)
For this goal setting, you are asked to provide numerical goals in these ministry areas:
- Average Worship Attendance
- Professions of Faith
- Small Groups
- Members involved in Mission
- Dollars given to Mission
A brief explanation of each of these areas is given below. If you are interested, you also will find the projections that the program generated based on the trends observed in the years, 2006-2010.
As you set the goals, please remember the SMART principles that you have used in other contexts. We may be inspired by Big Hairy Audacious Goals, and then disappointed if we miss the mark dramatically. Setting ambitious goals is testimony to bold faith, which is admirable. Setting realistic, attainable goals is wise, as we are encouraged by successfully reaching those goals, with God’s help.
Finally, will you commit to completing the goal setting by March 12? The date allows me to compile the data for the whole conference prior to the deadline given by the General Church in their aim to prepare for General Conference. In the coming days, I will offer more insight into the rationale and the uses of the goals you are setting. If you have questions, please give me a call or email, and I will do my best to assist you.
Thank you, Friend and Colleague, for your faith in the one who says to us, “For I know the plans I have for you . . . plan for a future with hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
In the name of Jesus Christ,
- Worship: enter the average worship attendance you anticipate for each of the years, 2012-2015.
- Evangelism: the number you expect will join the church by profession of faith.
- Spiritual Formation: the number of small groups and classes organized for spiritual formation and learning, including short-term studies. Please do NOT enter the number of persons engaged or anticipated in the groups.
- Missions: the number of people from the congregation engaged in local, national, and international mission, including mission teams, ongoing service and outreach ministries. Please do NOT indicate the number serving on a committee or contributing financially, unless also contributing hands-on service.
- Mission-giving Stewardship: the total amount given by your congregation to support benevolent and charitable ministries (includes apportioned gifts, Advance gifts and support for organizations active in advocacy, education, health, justice, mercy, outreach and welfare anywhere in the world).
A wise one has observed, “If you aim at nothing, you just might hit that target.”. The Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church has issued a Call to Action, to focus on the vitality of our congregations, to aim for the reversal of our decades long decline and to make disciples of Jesus Christ. The invitation and the challenge before us is to set goals for growth in 5 critical areas of ministry. These goals will be presented to the General Conference when delegates gather in Tampa next month. Bishop Al Gwinn will deliver the goals for all of the congregations in our conference.
Since I made the request last week and outlined the process for recording your goals, I have heard from several with concerns primarily about the setting of financial goals. Many unknowns cloud our perspective. We cannot know at this point how decisions of General Conference will impact our apportionments. The transitions in NCC also may affect the budget of the conference and, consequently, the budget of the local church. Recognizing that you are asked to consider ESTIMATES, you might ask yourself and your leadership, do we want to increase our giving to mission, maintain current levels, or accept diminishing resources as our trend?
The record you have been given in the tables in the Vital Congregations website do not include the year 2011 because these figures are not yet available. Even where most figures are provided, pastors are asking how they were determined. It is my understanding that they are the sum of your giving beyond your local church operating costs. The figures represent your apportioned gifts, Special Sundays, Advance gifts, and support for other charitable organizations.
Goal setting may seem an unnecessary step, just one more thing in your already full schedules. However, they speak volumes about the congregations’ plans and prayers. Your goals indicate your intentions to accept the status quo, or to move forward with awareness and acceptance of the invitation and the challenge God has put before us.
With an estimated 60% of most of our local communities not connected to any church, and not living the abundant life we have in Jesus Christ, there are opportunities for witness and kingdom building. Thank you for your faith and faithfulness.